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Helen Rosenthal Wins Democratic Primary for UWS City Council Seat

By Emily Frost | September 11, 2013 9:00am
 Rosenthal won with more than 27% of the vote on the Upper West Side. 
Helen Rosenthal Wins Democratic Nomination on UWS
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Helen Rosenthal beat out a crowded field of Democrats to earn the right to run for Gale Brewer's City Council seat in the general election.

Rosenthal earned more than 27 percent of the Democratic votes for city council district 6 — putting her ahead of her opponents Ken BiberajAaron BraunsteinDebra CooperNoah GotbaumMarc Landis and Mel Wymore. 

Wymore came in a close second with a little more than 22 percent of the vote. 

In the general election on Nov. 5, Rosenthal, 52 will face off against Republican candidate Harry DeMell, who recently declared his candidacy, and Green Party candidate Tom Siracuse in a bid to replace Brewer, who successfully secured the Democratic nomination for Manhattan Borough President Tuesday night after three terms in the City Council.  

The longtime liberal bent of the neighborhood means Rosenthal's chance of winning the seat is strong, residents said. 

"I've been thinking about this for a long time," Rosenthal said Tuesday as she thanked volunteers who gathered at the Firehouse Tavern on Columbus Avenue at West 85th Street. 

"I'm committed to this community," she said.

Rosenthal began a campaign for City Council in 2008 before the change in term limits allowed Brewer to run for a third time.

As a result, she said, she entered the race this time early and with strong support financially and in numbers. She ended this part of her campaign with $193,921 in her coffers, the most of all the candidates. 

Throughout her run, Rosenthal touted her experience working on city budgets during the Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani administrations — a fact that attracted voters, she said. 

"She's the only one with budget experience. It's so great to have a woman with budget experience," said Ariane Van Buren, 60.

NYU student Ravi Jha, 20, has been volunteering for Rosenthal for a year and a half, he said. 

"She knows how to look at numbers and data and she's so un-arrogant," he said. 

Rosenthal said she could not wait to work with Gale Brewer, who she greatly admires, and on the city's budget. 

"It is the case that buried inside the city's budget are all our choices and values. I'd like to make sure our taxpayers' dollars are spent honestly and wisely," Rosenthal said. 

Throughout the race, the Democratic candidates fought hard to distinguish themselves from each other — almost all of them have lived in the neighborhood for decades, have served on the local Community Board and share similar positions on issues like affordable housing, keeping small businesses strong and quality-of-life issues. 

Some candidates brought in star power. Rosenthal garnered the support of filmmaker Michael Moore, while Biberaj enlisted former President Bill Clinton's political strategist Hank Sheinkopf. 

Others trumpeted institutional support — Landis had the backing of Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Wymore received an endorsement from The New York Times on Aug. 30.

As she hugged supporters, Rosenthal gestured lovingly to what she considered a secret weapon on the campaign trail, 10-year-old Circe, the Irish Wolfhound who helped campaign by carrying a "Helen Rosenthal" sign folded over both sides of her back. 

Circe's owner, Roberta Pliner said that the large hound has been an integral part of the campaign.

"[Circe] got votes," said Pliner. 

"She attracts a huge amount of attention and then we talk about Helen...We made a difference," she said of her and her canine companion's constant appearances in public. 

"I can hardly take it in."